Trail of Tears

Actors Will Finley (left, Elias Boudinot) and Wesley French (John Ridge) in Sturbridge Village, which served as a stand-in for Cornwall, CT circa 1818. Both Boudinot and Ridge were sent north for a European education so that they could be leaders in the Cherokee Nation.

-Photo Credit: Raquel Chapa
Trail of Tears

Major Ridge, played by actor Wes Studi, and his fellow Cherokee leaders exit the Cherokee Meeting House at New Echota Historic Site. This historically accurate replica of the Cherokee Meeting House is located in New Echota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation almost 200 years ago.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Cherokee Elder Myrtle Driver, a respected member of the Eastern Band who served as the episode cultural consultant, portrays a traditional Cherokee woman who, along with her family, is being evicted from her home by the Georgia militia. The two young Cherokee girls in the scene, as well as many of the extras in the film, were also members of the Eastern Band. It was both difficult and meaningful for them to participate in recreating their own history.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Language consultant Harry Oosahwee reviews lines with actor Wes Studi. The Cherokee Nation is committed to preserving the Cherokee Language, and Oosahwee has devoted himself to help carry out this mission.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Wes Studi practices his lines as Harry Oosahwee, the Cherokee language consultant, listens carefully. Wes Studi, a fluent Cherokee speaker, has tackled dozens of Native American roles in as many films but this is the first major production in which he had the opportunity to portray a Cherokee and speak his own language.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Wes Studi “takes a powder.” Wes Studi’s character, Major Ridge, ages more than 30 years in the film. Key make-up artist, Judy Ponder and key hair stylist, Coni Andress try to preserve their hard work.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Executive producer Mark Samels shares a laugh with cultural consultant Myrtle Drive and Robin Jumper. Both Driver and Jumper are Cherokees who appear in the film though they are not trained actors.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Cherokee Elder Andrew Hair from Oklahoma gets a last minute adjustment to his head scarf from costumer Nancy Robinson while reviewing Cherokee lines with language consultant Harry Oosahwee. Hair is wearing traditional Cherokee clothing, which includes the head scarf.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Cherokee Elder Woodrow Ross from Oklahoma wears the traditional Cherokee clothing, jewelry and headdress worn in the early 19th century (minus the glasses of course). Key hair stylist, Coni Andress checks on his hair extensions.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Stickball is a game played by many Native American tribes and is the originator of the modern game of lacrosse. Stickball was traditionally played as a part of many important celebrations and the game could include hundreds of players and last for several days. Called "little brother of war" in Cherokee, stickball was often used to settle disputes between tribes. The production team was lucky to have stickball players from the Eastern Band of Cherokee come and recreate the game. Today the game is not limited to tribal celebrations -- University of Georgia and many other schools in the Southeast have stickball teams and are helping to keep this 400-year-old game alive.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Director Chris Eyre watches a rehearsal with Robin Jumper, one of the many non-professional actors who worked hard to understand the unfamiliar world of feature films.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Director Chris Eyre follows the camera crew during a rehearsal of a complicated steadicam shot, in which the photographer walks with the camera strapped to his body. Actors, Wesley French (right) and Will Finley (left) hit their marks.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks
Trail of Tears

Director Chris Eyre gives extra Mark Stover direction during a night shoot at Red Clay State Park, where the team filmed the historic Cherokee Council Meeting. The actual meeting took place nearly 200 years ago at the very same spot in Red Clay, Tennessee.

-Photo Credit: Billy Weeks

Find out about We Shall Remain events organized by your local PBS station, community coalition, public library or tribal community college.

Explore the Map
Exclusive Corporate
Funding Provided by:
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Major Funding by:
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Additional Funding
Provided by:
American Experience